Use This Quick Tip for Safer Holiday Shopping…in Your Underwear

Security

SantaCreditCardIt’s the holiday season, and with it come fuller schedules, longer to-do lists, multi-tasking and stress. To save time, you might be doing some holiday shopping online. But if you’re busy and distracted, you may be more susceptible to falling into online malware traps that attempt to steal your credit card info or banking passwords.

That’s why our own F-Secure Labs says the holiday shopping season is the perfect time to tweak your Internet browsing habits. And they’re offering a simple browser hygiene tip that is useful throughout the whole year: Set up a separate, Java-free browser dedicated just to shopping and banking.

Multi-tasking is overrated

“People fall into traps online when they’re distracted or suffering from information overload,” says Sean Sullivan, our Labs’ security advisor. “Too many tabs open, too many things going on – that’s when you’re most prone to click on a malicious link or download something you shouldn’t have.”

To be sure, experts agree that multi-tasking yields poor results and leaves one more prone to making mistakes. Segregating tasks and focusing on one thing at a time helps keep thoughts more focused. When you’re online in “serious financial mode” in your shopping browser, you’ll be better able to spot malicious traps that try to compromise your sensitive financial info.

Just say no to Java

Because of all Java’s in-the-browser security issues, F-Secure recommends disabling it completely. But if a certain website you need to use requires Java, the best thing to do is enable Java in only one alternate browser that is used just for visiting that website.

Which browser for which purpose?

It doesn’t necessarily matter, just so that you separate out your financial activities so you’re more on guard when conducting financial transactions. Someone who has Gmail and logs into YouTube a lot might want to use Chrome for fun, casual stuff, and another browser for shopping and banking.

(It’s true, though, that your choice of browser could influence what you pay for things online, and if you’re applying for jobs, it could affect your job prospects. Might be worth checking into.)

Using different browsers for different tasks is, as Sean says, “just good browser hygiene. If you practice poor personal hygiene, you’re going to get sick. Similarly if you practice poor browser hygiene, you might end up getting another kind of virus.”

So get your laptop, a cup of hot cocoa and do your shopping from the comfort of your bathrobe. But use good browser hygiene.

Oh, and for an entertaining example of how bad we really are at paying attention to more than one thing at once, check out this TED talk from Apollo Robbins:

Browser Hygiene Tips:

  • Set up a dedicated browser just for conducting financial transactions like shopping and banking
  • Make sure all your browser plugins are up-to-date
  • Disable Java – unless you really need it for a certain site, then access that site with a separate Java-enabled browser
  • Home for the holidays? Help your parents get set up with a separate shopping/banking browser too
  • Use good Internet security software like F-Secure Internet Security, which offers Browsing Brotection from malicious websites, and Banking Protection to keep online banking sessions safe.

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